Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Best Version of Ourselves

This has been a tough week for me.  I'm not actually sure why...

Maybe it was just the perfect storm and all my separate worries got mixed together like ingredients for soup!  Then came that "one more thing" that brought the pot to a boil and things got a little ugly!

I mean, it wasn't a bad week.  Every mom knows that there are benefits to the 'unroutine' of vacation week. 

There are also extra stresses, too, of having everyone home all the time...constantly eating, making messes, wanting to be entertained(Luke) or wanting to hide(teenagers).

Add to the mix that we were all coming off of the busy Easter weekend, (and the subsequent sugar crash), and I was definitely not starting my week with a full emotional tank!  

Lately, there has been a lot of emotional neediness in our house.  It hasn't really left time to work on some of my own emotional needs....and an issue or two....

I am not good at asking for time for myself.  Just like most moms....I am always last to sit down at the table, I always pull night duty, and my needs come after everyone else's if there is any time leftover.  

And with our crew of 8...there isn't a whole lot of "extra" anything!  (Except laundry!)

Honestly, even when there is a little time, I almost always take the opportunity to just snuggle with Jay on the couch for 10 minutes before he falls asleep.  Serious, depressing conversations can wait a little longer, can't they?!?  

Of a point.  Because, after a while, if you don't deal with your emotions then they deal with you.  That isn't a pleasant feeling.  Unfortunately, I have had past experience.  Some therapy I did years ago taught me quite a lot...but sometimes I still push the limits of what I learned trying to be Supermom and Superwife and just trying to make sure I hit the 'eject' button on my super suits before I explode and things get ugly.

Kind of like waiting as long as possible before pulling the rip cord on a parachute....that could get messy!

So...what was the 'one more thing' this week? 

It was Peter.

Sometimes I do really good with taking Peter's disabilities and special needs in stride.  Sometimes not.

The sometimes not usually happens when his behaviors affect some of the other kids and our ability to do things or go places like a 'normal' family.  

Peter is a very affectionate little guy who is really not so little anymore.  Peter will be 13 in July and is sporting some underarm hair and is starting to change into a teenager.  He is on his way to catching his brothers in his 5'3" frame.  Emotionally he is still at a preschool level and cognitively around a 2nd or 3rd grader.  He is severely affected by autism.

The fact that he has a lot of affect and is very loving is one of his strengths.  The problem is that he is always...and I mean always... trying to hug people and rub people's arms.  He's like a big German Shepherd puppy around people....bouncing around with limbs all over the place!  With every hug he gets more excited and laughs maniacally and his 5'3", 115 lb body is quite a lot to try and redirect.

Most people, especially our friends and family, are very understanding and patient with Peter.  We are working with Peter on only hugging family and friends, only giving one quick hug..."hug and release", and then just trying to enjoy people's company.  

It's a process......

Sometimes it's just a lot to try and manage.  When the kids' friends come over, we have to give lots of reminders to have Peter keep his hands to himself and give people personal space and keep him out of the room they are hanging in.  Sometimes we try and have Peter spend time with my dad at his house when there is a crowd over....or one of the older kids will bring Peter to my parents' and hang out with him if Ellie or Sarah has friends over.

On Wednesday, I took all the younger kids with Jon to Mass.  It did not go well.  Kate was her usual wiggly, noisy 2 year old self.  Luke sat with Jon and actually did a good job.  Peter was awful.  He was super wiggly, kept talking out loud, and the 22 minutes we were in the Church was not much of a spiritual experience....

In fact, the experience left me with a feeling of discouragement that I couldn't shake for the rest of the day.  It also didn't help that it rained and was dreary  Or that Peter asked me to go outside every 5 minutes  And, in between asking to go outside, he repeated the same phrase all day long.(The phrase he was repeating was mimicking my mother getting upset at my father over something...and Peter mimics voiced really well!  It's his super power!)

My nerves were pretty frayed by Wednesday night.  Thankfully, candy car bingo with Ellie at her school, and getting to sit with friends, was a nice distraction. 

My mistake was that I pushed some emotions about Peter aside instead of dealing with them.  And they dealt with me in the form of a migraine on Thursday afternoon.:(

Even though Peter has had a diagnosis of autism since he was 2 years and 3 months old, every once in a while a 'grief patch' catches up with me.  Sometimes, when life with Peter feels especially challenging,  the 'what if's' start to grow in my mind and around my heart like out of control vines.  I start to wonder what our life would be life if Peter wasn't autistic.  I think about what a "neurotypical" Peter would look like and sound like.  I wonder whether he would love Legos and sports.  I wonder what his relationships with his siblings would be like.  I wonder whether he would be playing little league and basketball like his big brothers.  

I especially think of how much easier it would be if Peter acted like a regular 12 year old at Church, at home, and out in public!

My plan is not God's plan....just like lots of other areas of my life(!)....and I know God has a plan for Peter.  

I read a really great blog post today that showed up in my inbox this morning.  Nicole Jankowski talks about her acceptance of who her son is within his diagnosis.  At one point in the post Nicole wrote, "Dominic didn’t seem to really mind being autistic.  In fact, he kind of seemed sort of…really….happy."  

I know that a lot of higher functioning kids with autism struggle with being different from their peers.  Peter is not high functioning and that comment by Nicole reminded me of him.  Peter is a really happy go lucky kid. The things that make him happy are riding his scooter around our block, playing "Where's my Water" on his IPad, watching Daniel Tiger, getting hash browns from Dunkin Donuts after Mass, going to Disney World, watching Southwest Airline videos on Youtube, going for a ride on the highway and getting off two exits later in the neighboring town, and eating Grandma's chocolate cake. 

Jay and I will never stop praying for Peter's healing, or ever stop making sure he gets the therapy he needs, or is in the best environment to help him continue to learn and be safe and happy.  What I am always reminding myself of is that Peter's happy is much different than my happy, or his siblings' happy.  

At Christmas, our Pastor gave everyone a copy of a Matthew Kelly book in which the author talks about becoming the "best version of ourselves".  Peter will reach the best version of himself long before I ever get there!  His capacity to be happy and love is much simpler...and more pure...than mine!  

One way or another, if not by healing in this lifetime then in the perfection of our Heavenly home, the veil of Autism will be lifted for Peter.  

Jon said it best in a conversation he had with Jay a while ago.  Jon made the comment, "I can't wait to meet Therese and see what Peter is really like when we are all in Heaven one day......"